Sex + Love Advice

Ask Slutever: How Do I Transition from “Just Sex” to a Relationship?

March 14, 2017
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Ask Slutever is somewhat reliable slash often offensive dating advice. By Karley Sciortino.

So I have this friend from college, and six weeks ago it turned into something physical. I normally go to his place (we live in a small, boring city and it’s winter) talk for a couple hours and then have sober sex. He’s cute with me, even outside of sex, but we’re trying to keep this a secret (at least for now) since gossip sucks when it’s about you. Recently, he told a mutual friend that he and I are “really close,” and I wonder what that means. On one hand I’m like, “Great, I’ve found someone who respects me, who I can have sex and intellectual discussions with, and the “couple” label is just for an audience anyway—just live the moment!” But on the other hand, heteronormativity is so ingrained in me, and I have this stigma against non-defined/casual things, because I think they could hurt me. I’m also kind of afraid that when people find out they’ll be like “So… what are you?” I get it’s still early, but how do you know if it’s “just sex”? How do you turn sex into a not too cheesy but somewhat committed relationship? Is this a romantic friendship? Labels are so confusing! Xo Bi Chick  

My first instinct is to say that if you’re having sober sex with someone, that means you’re basically married. But maybe that just means I’m an alcoholic.

I agree—labels are confusing. In my mind, the romantic hierarchy goes something like this, starting with the most casual: First you’re “talking.” Then you’re “fucking.” Then you’re “hanging out,” followed by “dating” (aka the stage where you full-on act like a couple, but still avoid saying the word “boyfriend” in front of him, so as not to scare away the boner), until you’re eventually in a full blown relationship… and then it’s all downhill from there. However, separate from that linear fuck-scale is a separate romantic genre that’s more free floating, if you will. This genre includes fuck buddies, “lovers” and romantic friendships—basically, people who you like, and who you have a continuous sexual relationship with to some degree, but who you have no intention of being with “for real.”

In my opinion, in order to transition from sex into an actual relationship, you need some momentum. Basically, you need to be making progress on the stepping stones of the fuck-scale, otherwise you’ll end up stagnant, which will either land you in fuck-buddy purgatory (which it doesn’t seem like you want), or it will cause the relationship to eventually shrivel up and die. It’s like that great quote from Woody Allen in Annie Hall: “A relationship is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”

Now, to figure out if what you have with this guy is “just sex,” ask yourself a series of simple Cosmo-esque questions: Do you do things besides banging? Do you go out to dinner or the movies? Do you know his last name? When you text him, does he respond “sry who dis?” Does he cum on your tits and then sprint out of your apartment, or does he sleep over and make eggs in the morning? The answer should be self-evident. The next question to ask yourself is: Is the relationship evolving in any way? Are you starting to hang out with more frequency, and opening up about your so-called “feelings”? If so, then I would say you should just chill and let the relationship evolve at its natural speed, and avoid asking him the most terrifying question known to man: “What are we?”

As a sidenote, I just want to say that there’s nothing wrong with non-defined or casual things. In my experience, romantic friendships end up hurting me way less than actual defined relationships, because someone who’s not committed to you has way less of a chance of fucking you over, basc. Disappointment comes from expectation. (Actually, I wrote an essay for Vogue about why friends-with-benefits is a valuable dynamic, if you’re interested.) However, it’s totally cool if you personally feel more comfortable in a relationship that’s defined. I just wanted to point out that it’s not the only way. (Oh and also remember that heteronormativity is kinda basic tbh.)

The only thing that seems like a red flag to me here is the secrecy thing. I get wanting to avoid being a tragic Instagram couple, live streaming your brunch two weeks into your fling. But also, you’re not Kylie Jenner. Probs no one cares if they see you in public standing next to someone—no offense. Just make sure that if this things progresses, he’s not hiding you like a coke addiction.

In my opinion, you should keep hanging out, and just relax and enjoy getting to know him. The beginning is the exciting part—don’t rush through it to the boring monotony of a committed relationship. Enjoy the butterflies, because once they’re gone they’re hard to get back. And also, rather than freaking out about what he’s thinking and he wants, be sure to focus on what you want, and whether you even like him enough to date him for real. It takes a long time to get to know someone—months and months. My therapist is always reminding me of this. Still, every time I start dating someone new I immediately get all obsessive like “I’m in love with them, I want to date them, I don’t want to fuck it up!” And every time my shrink just keeps repeating “You don’t even know them!” Just get to know them!” And she’s right. How can we be sure we want to be a relationship with someone we’ve only hung out with like four times? We can’t, duh. But for some reason, inner crazy is like Lock it the fuck down. Resist!

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